Feminist website Vagenda recently discussed condensation in housing, which got me thinking about the affects of rented housing specific to women; if there are any…
Of course there are.
Firstly, women still earn less than men, have worse access to certain well-paid employment, are more likely to have part-time, insecure jobs, and suffered most when local government jobs were cut. This makes women much less able to withstand rent rises, or to access rented housing when prices, are soaring ever skywards.
The obvious difficulty is the danger of viewing properties alone. Try not to do this: invite someone along, phone before you enter the flat then check in and out. May I remind you of a friend shown round a flat by a landlord: 'This is the lounge, the kitchen - here's the bathroom.' Before he paused to add, with noted relish: '...and this will be our room.' She was out of there like a sprinter.
Let's also remember the landlord convicted of setting up hidden webcams in his female tenants' bedrooms. Of the landlord who abused his previously homeless young female tenants by demanding sexual services to let them remain. This is grim reading, isn't it? Historically, things have always been bad. One older tenant told me of being refused a rented flat with the words: 'Silly girl - you won't stay - you'll be married and out of here soon. Stay with your parents until then.'
Or the landlord not so long ago who specified female tenants in his ads, provided single beds, and was outraged when they requested proper, adult, double beds because '...he thought they were nice girls.' Of leering landlords who turn up grinning and gurning with a bottle of booze because '...we liked to party.' (My response? 'Party is NOT a verb but you are wanker.')
Of being roundly admonished during the dreaded inspection for being an 'incomplete women' or ruder words to that effect for not diligently polishing floors with the enthusiasm of Stepford Wives. Or chided for not being 'modern girls' by failing to perform repairs themselves, or told boyfriends should mend the leaks. Or being called bitches for standing up, calmly, knowledgeably and correctly for renting rights.
Renters encounter all the prejudices: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia. Some tenants can tick 'all of the above'. Let's remember again and shudder once more the swine-ish landlord, who, discovering his tenants were lesbians, leered and asked 'to watch.'
Or of the woman of Nigerian extraction who chose to see entertainment when her landlord SHOUTED AND ENUNCIATED CLEARLY because her tenant was (eek!) a 'foreign, coloured girl' (despite being second generation, and born in Romford.) But then, at least she got to rent the place - many agents wouldn't have let her get that far.
Of course, this is 'everyday sexism.' It happens everywhere, all the time. But when I knew my friend lived in fear because her creepy landlord let himself in to her flat while she was in the shower, it's too close. It's raw. It's personal. How do we stop this?